Kingsley School, Bideford 13th John Davies Western Area & England Judo Summer International Training Camp

The 2022 camp was an opportunity to return to running a full programme after last year’s camp had to operate on a slightly restricted programme due to just coming out of the pandemic.  So, it wasn’t a surprise that the camp proved popular again, and places quickly filled up and we ended up at full capacity for this year’s camp.

Kingsley School welcomed 110 judoka aged 10 to 18 years old representing 41 clubs from all our Home Nations. The range of judoka attending our camp makes this training setting a wonderful experience with younger club judoka to members of the England REDS team to established ETD and GB junior judoka, all enjoying this unique thrilling training camp in North Devon. To add to the incredible lineup of judoka an exciting line-up of world-class elite coaches were also welcomed who all brought a wealth of knowledge and heaps of enthusiasm to inspire, which generated an amazing atmosphere for the visitors.

The first session on Sunday Afternoon is traditionally led by Western Area head coach Simon Ward, who created a fun and energizing session with team building and game challenges to help kick off the camp with a positive attitude and help set the tempo for the coming days.

Each morning started bright and early with either a training Run or Body Weight conditioning before a final tough 12-minute cooper run to test the fitness levels on Wednesday. This year the camp welcomed back from Northern Ireland former Royal Marine Gary Jackson from Triangle JC whose knowledge in strength and conditioning plus nutrition is superbly delivered to benefit the judoka during the early morning starts.

For Kingsley School, it was a real honour to welcome home the camp’s main guest coach, double Olympian and 1984 Olympic bronze medallist Neil Eckersley, who was taking part in his first camp since returning to the UK after 7 years of coaching in Norway. Neil’s Monday morning technical development session was expertly delivered with a selection of fundamental stabilisation drills linking into specific judo situations which followed into a masterclass in transition Nnwaza practice before a brilliant mindfulness session.

The camp also welcomed back full-time GB Athlete Max Gregory and Commonwealth Games Judoka Lele Nairne, both had attended the camp as up-and-coming judokas as part of their judo journeys. Max is based at the British Judo Olympic and Paralympic National Training Centre while Lele trains out of her home club Bradley Stoke. Both judoka now competes on the IJF World Tour with Lele coming directly to this year’s camp after taking 5th place for Team England in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. Both judokas delivered some excellent content to our judoka and helped throughout the camp with all the other coaching sessions while Lele took the opportunity to inspire as many of our female judoka as possible with many randori matches with the girls.

Alongside all the technical sessions the camp also held many outstanding randori sessions with a mix of afternoon and evening sessions. The intensity and volume of training just improved every day. To watch the judoka performing with courage and determination, showing true judo values throughout these sessions was truly inspiring. Everyone just loved the opportunity of having so many partners to practice with during the sessions, making the atmosphere within the dojo electric.

Away from the top elite level Judoka the other sessions were all magnificently delivered by an outstanding team of coaches including GB Judo Support Coaches Samantha Chraniuk and Garth Illingworth who alongside Matthew Hucker, Jax O’Donnell, Brain Long, Charlie Bond, Rachel Huey, Robert Frood, Cameron Lavelle, and Martin McDonald, who all truly encouraged the judoka with so much energy and motivation during the entire camp.

After every session recovery was heavily concentrated so that the judoka had the best chance of being able to sustain the intensity and volume of training, this was expertly delivered by Team Bath athlete Charlie Bond who ran the mobility and cool-down sessions as well as Neil and Garth continuing to offer some wellbeing and mindfulness sessions.

Away from the Dojo, on Monday the judoka enjoyed a variety of team sporting activities which offered many transferable skills for judo including, tag rugby, handball, basketball, football, and rounders. On Tuesday the camp returned to the local Ultimate Adventure Centre in Bideford, where the judoka enjoyed a mix of high ropes climbing, mountain surfing, paddleboarding and kayaking. The Ultimate water wipe-out course was partly out of action so after a few rounds on the course almost all the judoka ended up having fun in the large lake and cooling down on one of the hottest afternoons of the year so far.  This all concluded with the final evening together on Wednesday with the camp BBQ and it’s a knockout team challenge and scavenger hunt which generated lots of enthusiasm and a competitive environment for the last evening together.

After a tough week, on the Thursday and final morning of the camp, the judoka was rewarded with an extra hour of sleep before breakfast, skipping the morning run. The last dojo session was a final opportunity to reflect on all the previous sessions while adding a little finishing randori practice before a final fun team game which included a highly competitive coaches game which was a hilarious way to round off an incredible few days together before the final presentations and thank you speeches.

Simon Ward, who coordinated and led the camp commented;

“We have created once again a unique and meaningful experience for our athletes. I’m in complete admiration of everyone’s hard work during the camp, you really couldn’t have given much more on the tatami, while off the mat you all demonstrated true judo values throughout your camp journey.

I would like to thank you all, from our catering team who worked so hard providing our meals, to the parents who travelled down to Bideford to bring their young judoka to the camp, also a massive contribution came from the camp team mentors. And finally, an extra special thanks to our lead coaches and support coaches who supported everyone with a sincere commitment to helping make the camp experience so wonderful.”

Neil Eckersley, who supported the camp commented;

“What an amazing time I had; I was very nervous at first because this was my 1st masterclass since moving back from Norway. In hindsight, I had really nothing to worry about because everyone made me feel so welcome. The kids were amazing, and the coaching staff were outstanding. I would recommend this camp to anybody. Once again thank you for all your support.”

“Through the hard times, there’s always a good time. No matter how hard it seems we achieve our goals one way or another. Each one of us helped another and built amazing memories and great friends. Don’t give up on your dream or it’ll end or be achieved. One dream leads to another, judo is mine and now I have done this camp I know exactly what to say to my friends about how amazing this trip has been. Friends are everything and so is teamwork. So, work hard, give it your all, I’m sad I can’t come next year but I hope to come back again”. Eqisha – Guernsey Judo Club

“I was a little bit apprehensive on my way to the camp, but the coaches and the other players were super friendly and made me feel welcome from the start. In just a few short days, I feel like my judo improved a lot, I can’t wait to get back to my club and practice what I learned. I’m gutted now it’s all over, didn’t want to leave.” 1Tobi – Hardy Spicer Judo Club.

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